Superior Court Judge Delays High School Playoff Game Due to Unfair Treatment of Foster Youth
November 21, 2008 – Earlier today a Superior Court Judge in Oakland issued a temporary restraining order delaying a high school football playoff game in a case brought by the National Center for Youth Law on behalf of a foster youth seeking to enforce his right to participate in school sports on the same terms as other students. Judge Frank Roesch ruled that the youth who brought the case demonstrated that he was likely to succeed in proving that the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) bylaws violate the rights of foster youth under California law.
The court action results from an October 24, 2008 decision by the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section finding that the 16-year-old junior, who had moved to Placer County to live in a foster care placement with his an aunt in August, had not been eligible to play in the first five games of the football season because he had not submitted paperwork supposedly required by CIF bylaws. This paperwork would not have been required of a youth who moved to the district with his family. Under the CIF bylaws, however, foster children who move by themselves, as is generally the case, can never be immediately eligible to play sports when they enroll in a new school.
The CIF’s unlawful application of their rules forced Placer High to forfeit three of their wins, thus costing them their rightful place in the playoffs. The court’s decision today delays the playoff game that Placer High would have played tonight but for the CIF’s unlawful decision. On Monday, a judge will conduct a full hearing on the validity of CIF’s bylaws and their unfair treatment of the foster youth.
“We were encouraged by the court’s decision today because it allows our client the opportunity to demonstrate that the CIF’s interpretation of its bylaws violates California laws, such as AB 490, requiring that foster youth be afforded the same opportunities to participate in school activities as all other students,” said NCYL Senior Attorney Leecia Welch. “These laws were designed to ensure that foster youth, who often experience frequent moves, are not faced with barriers to transitioning into a new school or to participating in extracurricular activities.”
The CIF’s unlawful application of their rules requiring Placer High to forfeit their games kept them out of the playoffs, and that is why the judge has postponed the playoff game. “We are discouraged that the CIF continues to stand by its policy requiring foster youth to face obstacles to participation in sports that aren’t there for other youth,” said NCYL attorney Bryn Martyna. “We are hopeful that the court will resolve these issues favorably on Monday so that the playoff game can move forward. We are confident that the CIF can figure out a way to accommodate this change in schedule.”
NCYL attorneys expressed regret that the teams may have already been in route to the game before they learned of the postponement. However, they place the blame solely on the CIF: “The CIF knew that the court was virtually certain to delay the playoffs by midday, and they should have alerted the teams and their fans,” said Leecia Welch.
“It is important that the playoff game goes forward, but it is also important that the team that deserves to play be included and that foster children be protected under California law.”
For more information, please contact:
Leecia Welch, National Center for Youth Law
(510) 835-8098; lwelch(at)youthlaw.org